Running in the Los Angeles Marathon was not only a bucket list item of mine but a plan to channel all my anger and grief I’ve been harboring lately into something physically challenging as not only a “release” but something I feel like I’ve accomplished. I haven’t been feeling much of the “accomplished” part lately. It feels like the “reward” center in my brain has fallen dormant and I needed something to wake it the hell back up.
*Shocker: travel wasn’t quite doing it. Maybe because it’s too easy, even as a solo traveler.
As a beginner, I was a little nervous as I’m only used to running 5-7mi in a single session, including inclines and steep “hidden” staircases throughout my neighborhood in Beachwood Canyon. Those kick my butt, but I did feel like I could go longer so a 26mi course seemed doable but was a tad bit more difficult than I had expected. It was challenging as hell, but not impossible. Quitting was not an option, even if I had to fucking crawl across that finish line! I ended up actually running through it.
That morning at Dodger Stadium where the start line was, it was SO F-ING COLD. It was 60º (F) but with strong winds. Most of the runners were inside the stadium, huddled in any corner they could find to keep out of the wind. Once we all gathered at the start line, everyone began to toss their old clothes up in the air and off to the side. Hoodies and sweat pants went flying everywhere like confetti. I was given a lot of clothing by horrible former friends who own (owned?) a boutique with their logo on them and I ripped all that garbage off me and tossed it in the street. Felt pretty good, I won’t lie. All those clothes are gathered after all runners have left the start line and donated to the homeless. Once I started running, I felt warm.
I was able to run at a very nice pace, even up the Walt Disney Concert Hall incline downtown. I ran non-stop from Dodger Stadium, to basically passed my house in Hollywood. Now I know I’m physically able to do that without stopping. The caffeinated running gels totally helped anytime I felt like I was losing my mojo – until they fell out of my pocket later.
I’ll be honest, around mile 16 or 17, I started to have my doubts. Although I had good shoes with runner insoles, I didn’t have MARATHON SHOES like I should have. My calves were starting to cramp up really bad, and my feet were just so done with me. I did have to walk for a few miles just to give my legs a break. Turns out, running actually made them feel slightly better. May as well just keep running! I already knew how extremely sore I’d be afterward. I was already feeling it. Around mile 20, you pass the Westfield Mall (the finish line) and the course takes you all the way into Brentwood for five more miles. What a TEASE! This was where I was REALLY feeling it. Each mile felt longer and longer. All the spectators on the sidelines were yelling “ONE MORE MILE!!!”
I saw the Mile 25 marker and just hauled my ass all the way through the two intersections and through that damn finish line! DONE. I DID IT – I RAN A FULL MARATHON! 26.2mi – in 6 hours. I was rewarded with the Finisher medal and found my friends. My whole body hurt. I could barely walk. But I felt so good. The reward center in my brain popped its champagne, and I finally felt something challenging accomplished. I needed it.
With the GPS tracker inside your running bib (the white piece of paper with your number your wear on your clothing), I hear my name called and I’m like “HOLY SHIT! I DID IT!” I had my friend Stephanie and her family, including her one month baby meet me in the spectator area. I nearly cried. My friend and personal fitness trainer, Oscar, also ran the marathon. He’s run several before, and this being my first, he actually said “Honestly, I didn’t think you’d make it…” – thanks, man. He waited for me about 45 min or so at the finish line so we could get our free beer in the beer garden.
TIPS I’VE PICKED UP FOR ANYONE INTERESTED IN THEIR FIRST FULL MARATHON:
During my prep weeks leading up to the run, I bought really expensive ASICS running shoes that ended up TEARING my ankles. After modifying them, and cutting them up and them still not working out, I ended up throwing them in the trash. The LA Marathon is presented by ASICS! I’m annoyed about that so I went back to my old trustworthy 7-year old Nikes with a running insert that prevents shin splints and all those bad things that come with long-distance running and paired those with some running socks. Next time: REAL MARATHON SHOES. I need to find out what the champion runners were wearing. These are the ones who made it across the finish line first in just a few minutes after 2 hours. I do have like 2% Kenyan (or some kind of African) in my DNA as it turns out, so maybe that’s where my love of running comes from? Ha.
I was reading from pro-runners and past marathon athletes on their tips on how to prepare for a 26mi marathon. Apparently, drinking water and Gatorade drinks non-stop for the week leading up to the run is helpful, along with eating carbs and cutting out fiber and veggies.
-Keep practice runs short and sweet and save that energy for the real run. I didn’t do much of that because I was too afraid I’d sprain my ankle or something. Set out your outfit for the day. Find some throw-away hoodies and sweat pants to keep you warm the morning you arrive to Dodger Stadium, which will be before the sun comes up. Since marathons are in March in LA, it is chilly and usually windy. These are the clothes people toss up in the air and to the side as the start line opens.
-During my practice runs, I kept note of what parts of my body started to ache and basically wrapped myself up like a mummy in runner’s tape. That stuff works! It didn’t hold with all that sweat for that long, but that’s probably because I bought the CVS brand. :/
-These are the shit! They totally work, and they helped me run up inclines. Just make sure they don’t fall out of your pockets like mine did. Clif Bloks. For basically any sport, but definitely for running.
-Aside from getting the right shoes, STRETCH STRETCH STRETCH. Especially your calves. Give yourself a foot massage every night and day. Stretch your hamstrings so your hips don’t hurt.
-And finally, yes, the LA Marathon gives out water in plastic cups and liquid electrolytes every 2 miles. And yes, throw the cup on the ground when you’re done as everyone else does. I’m assuming they’re all scooped up and recycled.
It’s totally ok to walk the entire thing. It’s ok to walk a few miles to catch your breath. If your body is telling you you can’t make it and you need to stop, listen to it and pull out of the run. Not worth messing up something important like your KNEES. And mostly, just have fun. Go with a running buddy or alone. I chose alone because I knew I’d have different speeds and resting periods and they probably wouldn’t match anyone else’s. The guilt or annoying feeling of having to keep up or leave your friend behind isn’t fun, so alone is preferable, at least for me. Or at least a “see you at the finish line!” mentality like I had with Oscar. He’s a fitness trainer, so obviously he’d make it before I would. 😉
Can’t wait for the next one. Yes, I signed up for next year’s marathon again!
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